Lausanne GP: Kashlinskaya catches Goryachkina

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/8/2020 – Round six's three decisive results produced important changes in the standings table. Alina Kashlinskaya beat Marie Sebag with the white pieces and caught up with Aleksandra Goryachkina on 'plus two', while Harika Dronavalli — who was co-leading until round five — was defeated by Alexandra Kosteniuk and is now among the chasers. Tied with Harika on 3½ is now Zhansaya Abdumalik, who defeated Antoaneta Stefanova. | Photo: Official site

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Kosteniuk gets first win

After six rounds of intense struggles, the participants of the Women's Grand Prix in Lausanne are resting during International Women's Day. From Monday through Friday the twelve chess stars will fight to climb up the standings and improve their chances to get one of the two spots granted by the series for the next Candidates Tournament.

For the time being, Aleksandra Goryachkina and Alina Kashlinskaya are sharing the lead on a 'plus two' score, and are followed closely by Harika Dronavalli, Nana Dzagnidze and Zhao Xue's late replacement Zhansaya Abdumalik, all on 3½ points.

In round six, Kashlinskaya scored a fine win over Marie Sebag, Abdumalik outplayed Antoaneta Stefanova in a queenless middlegame, and Alexandra Kosteniuk recovered from her three losses so far by beating Harika — all three winners were playing White. In the most exciting draw of the day, world champion Ju Wenjun missed plenty of chances to take down Swedish veteran Pia Cramling.

FIDE Women's Grand Prix Lausanne 2020

Future chess stars? — a group of girls with Aleksandra Goryachkina and Anna Muzychuk | Photo: Official site

26-year-old Alina Kashlinskaya is currently number 16 among women in the official FIDE ratings list, but with her performance so far in Lausanne she has obtained 11 rating points, and if she manages to maintain this gain she will get to overcome her peak rating of 2492, achieved in May last year. As far as the series goes, her shared eighth place in Skolkovo means she needs to line up two strong performances in Switzerland and Italy to fight for the top spots.

Against Sebag on Saturday, the Russian showed superior opening preparation, leaving her French colleague relatively short on time, especially after Sebag spent over 35 minutes on move 9. This resulted in Black's queen finding herself rather stranded on opposite camp. In fact, Kashlinskaya effectively corralled her rival's strongest piece:

 

After 21.e6, Sebag could do nothing but give up her queen with 21...fxe6 22.xf5 xf5. White immediately put her own queen to work with 23.g4 and needed only seven more moves to secure the full point.

 

Alina Kashlinskaya

Sharing the lead — Alina Kashlinskaya | Photo: Official site

Excellent opening preparation was also showcased by Alexandra Kosteniuk in her game with White against Harika Dronavalli. The players followed a deep theoretical line out of a Berlin Defence with 5.e1, except that Harika started hesitating to make her decisions around move 11 and spent over ten minutes on move 16, while Kosteniuk continued to blitz out her preparation.

Most pieces left the board and all that was left was a bishop, a rook and a queen per side, with White getting two extra pawns on the queenside. Black still had chances to get counterplay, however, even when her opponent was an exchange up in the endgame:

 

Harika's 51...c2+ was inaccurate due to 52.d2, when capturing the a-pawn with 52...xa4 is less relevant than allowing White both to defend along the second rank and coordinate her heavy pieces. There followed 53.e2 f5 54.d8 and Black's 54...b4 gave way to a mate-in-four position after 55.a2. Harika resigned.

 

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Yannick Pelletier

Former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk chatting with press officer Yannick Pelletier | Photo: Official site

Another opening surprise was uncorked by Zhansaya Abdumalik, who had Antoaneta Stefanova thinking long and hard from move 5 after playing the Scotch. In a queenless middlegame, Stefanova failed to assess the dangers of White getting a passed pawn on the a-file:

 

Instead of 30...ad8, the former world champion from Bulgaria needed to include 30...axb3. In the game, after 31.bxa4, White managed to create enough play on the queenside to increase her advantage gradually. Abdumalik was quite precise in conversion and got the full point after 51 moves.

 

Zhansaya Abdumalik, Antoaneta Stefanova

Zhansaya Abdumalik surprised Antoaneta Stefanova in the opening | Photo: Official site


Standings after Round 6

 

All games

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.